His PeaceJohn 20:19 • Dr. Andy Woods • April 26, 2015 • JOHN - The Life and Light Revealed
4-26-15 John 20:19 Lesson 121
Good morning everyone; if we could take our Bibles and open them to John 20:19, I don’t anticipate us getting too far beyond verse 21 today but the title of our message this morning is His Peace. And of course, as you know we are continuing our study through John’s Gospel, we are in that final section of the book recording the final days of Christ. And of course we’ve looked at His death and chapters 20-21 is where we find ourselves as we’re looking at His resurrection and the events following.
We have seen the empty tomb, John 20:1-10 and the way the book of John wraps up is it wraps up with the various post resurrection appearances of Jesus to various people or groups. Last week we saw His first post resurrection appearance to a woman named Mary Magdalene. And as we get into verses 19-23 we see His second post resurrection appearance and here He is appearing to His disciples minus Thomas. And of course, as you know, Judas has left the group a long time ago. So He’s really appearing just to ten individuals and He will appear to this same group a little bit later, about eight days later, and Thomas will be involved beginning in verse 24.
But this appearance to the ten we can divide it up as follows; we have the fearful disciples, verse 19, and then after that we have the faithful Savior, the second half of verse 19 through verse 23. We have His appearance, His comfort and something that is very, very important, His commission because His commission explains what the church is supposed to be doing in His absence.
Let’s go ahead and start off with verse 19, His appearance. Well, first of all, before He appears in this room we have a description there of the fearful disciples and notice, if you will, John 20:19. It says, “So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”
You’ll notice verse 19, the first part of the verse, it says, “So when it was evening on that day,” now what day are we talking about. We are talking about Sunday, the day that Jesus resurrected from the dead. This would be Easter Sunday evening, although I’ve got to tell you something, I’m not sure that we as Christians should be using the word “Easter” when you understand its roots. I didn’t want to say this on Easter Sunday for fear of alienating everybody that came to visit us for the first time, but the fact of the matter is the word “Easter” is not found in the Bible. The proper name for this particular Sunday is Resurrection Sunday.
Well, then, where do we get this idea of Easter? It actually goes back to the tower of Babel [pronounced with long A, bāy-bel] or Babel [pronounced with short a, Baw-bel]. And it’s there we learn by studying, not just the Scripture but extra biblical Babylonian tradition that there was a man named Nimrod. Now he is mentioned in the Bible, in Genesis 10:8-10. [Genesis 10:8-10, “Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth.  He was a mighty hunger before the LORD; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunger.’  The beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.”]
His name in Hebrew actually means revolt or rebellion. And he was married to a woman named Semiramis, and Nimrod and Semiramis had a child named Tammuz. Tammuz was killed by a wild animal according to Babylonian tradition and he was miraculously, it was like a fake resurrection, he was miraculously brought back to life under satanic power. And what started at the tower of Babel, or Babel, was what’s called the mother-child cult, the worship of the mother and the worship of the child.
And what we have to understand is according to early Genesis 11 there was only one language at that time and as you know the story from Sunday school, when God confounded the languages the different nations formed as a result of that. But every nation took with them into their culture a little piece of this mother-child cult or this worship of the mother and the worship of the son. And the book that explains all of this so well is a book called The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop. And Hislop explains that in any culture you look at you will see remnants of this worship of the mother and the worship of the child; it’s just the names get changed from culture to culture.
So in Assyria the mother was named Ishtar; the child was named Tammuz. In Phoenicia the mother was named Astarte, the child was named Ba’al. In Egypt the mother is named Isis; the child is named Horus or Osiris. In Greece the mother is named Aphrodite; the child is named Eros. In Rome the mother is named Venus; the child is named Cupid. Hislop traces this; he didn’t make a lot of friends with the Roman Catholics with this book because he traces this into Roman Catholicism. And his point is the Jesus and Mary of Roman Catholicism is not the Jesus of the Bible. Most people understand that because Mary, in that system, is venerated almost like a co-redemptress.
And the point I’m trying to make is when you look at that first one there, Assyria, the mother is named Ishtar. Now it’s from Ishtar we get the word what? Easter! And so that is actually the origin of the word Easter; it’s actually a pagan concept that goes back to the tower of Babel, or Babel, if Alexander Hislop and what he says is accurate.
So all of these things that we have in our culture, we have eggs, we have bunnies… it’s funny, you read your Bible you don’t find any eggs or bunnies. So why is all of this stuff in our living rooms? Why do we bring it into our churches? Well, we’re influenced by, sadly, many times the culture of the day and we mix a pagan origin with a legitimate bona fide celebration within Christianity. We mix the two together and we end up calling it Easter when in reality the proper designation for it is Resurrection Sunday. So that’s just a little background on that… no extra charge for that.
But you’ll notice that they were meeting here; it specifically says, “when it was evening on that day,” and then it says specifically, “the first day of the week.” What we have to understand is the meeting of these Jews on the first day of the week is something that is profound. The Jews had not been having their Sabbath on the first day of the week, which is Sunday. For one thousand five hundred years they had been meeting on Saturday; not the first day of the week, the last day of the week. And they were to work six days and rest on the seventh day which would be Saturday. And they received those instructions from the Lord at Mount Sinai through what is called the Mosaic Law. And it’s there at the bottom circle, as they came out of Egyptian bondage and were in route to enter Canaan. And so you have to understand that that law was given about 1445 B.C.
So the Jews, all they knew for 1,500 years, roughly, was this mindset that they had that we’re going to have Sabbath on the last day of the week. And then all of a sudden you get to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not rise on Saturday, as you know, He rose on Sunday and that changed everything in the world of spirituality, at least as far as God is concerned. And so the church starts meeting on the first day of the week and it’s not just here on this particular day that they’re gathered but it is throughout the ages.
In Acts 20:7 it says, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread….” In 1 Corinthians 16:2 it says, Paul is raising money for an offering and he says, “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save…” speaking of this offering project. So everything shifts and that, in and of itself, I believe, is one of the great proofs that Jesus bodily rose from the dead. Why would Jews, and keep in mind the early church was all Jewish, why would they shift from Saturday to Sunday? Why would they shift from what they knew for one thousand five hundred years? Think about how long one thousand five hundred years is; America has only been here for what, two hundred thirty-eight years, something to that extent. Think about being under a system for one thousand five hundred years and all of a sudden shifting it from one day to the next.
Why would they do that unless something historic had happened on that particular Sunday… the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead? Michael Green, I’ve used this quote before, but he makes this statement, he says: “The Jews original day of rest was on Saturday because it was said that God had finished His creation and rested on the seventh day. It was written into their laws. The Sabbath is one of the supporting columns of Judaism. One of the most reverent things in the life of the Jew was keeping the Sabbath. The Christians, though, met for worship on the first day of the Jewish week in acknowledgment of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These Christians actually succeeded in changing this age-old and theologically backed day of rest and worship to Sunday, yet remember they were Jews themselves.”
One of the things to understand about the early church is they are all comprised of Jews; all of the early believers in the Lord Jesus Christ were Jewish. When Peter gave the gospel on the day of Pentecost and three thousand people responded they were all Jews. You do not have a single Gentile convert in the church until Acts 10. One guy gets saved and they have to have a meeting amongst themselves, can you believe it… a Gentile got saved?
Now what do we do, two thousand years later? If a Jew gets saved we all get together and we say can you believe it… a Jew got saved, because the church now, beginning probably with Paul’s first missionary journey, starts to become primarily Gentile in Acts 13. But you see, the early church that made this decision to switch the day of worship, or rest, from Saturday to Sunday, those that made that decision were Jewish themselves. They had been steeped in the Mosaic Law which taught them to do the opposite for one thousand five hundred years. So Green says, “remember they were Jews themselves, keeping in mind what they thought would happen if they were wrong we must recognize that this was probably one of the biggest decisions any religious body of men has ever made. How are we to explain the change from Saturday to Sunday worship without the resurrection of Jesus Christ?”
And so, you know, we read these things in our Bible, “on the first day of the week,” and we just sort of rush right over it, and yet we need to understand that that is profoundly… profoundly significant. In fact, I would argue that it is unexplainable, it is inexplicable unless these early Christians, and they don’t even get the name Christian, by the way, until Acts 11, but unless these early group of believers in Jesus, or Yeshua, which is the Jewish name for Jesus, or the Hebrew word for Jesus, they would not have made that shift unless something historical had happened, something as significant as the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But any way you cut it what you discover is the Sabbath is rest; Saturday was the day of rest now Sunday becomes the day of rest. Is it not interesting that in the Sabbath, going all the way back to Genesis 2:1-3 God rested. Remember Genesis 2:1-3? “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts.  By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all of His work which He had done.  Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all of His work which God had created and made.”
Warren Wiersbe, the great Bible commentator, writes this: “The seventh day of the week, the Sabbath, commemorates God’s finished work. The Lord’s day, which is changed to Sunday,” as we just said, “The Lord’s day commemorates Christ’s finished work of redemption, the new creation. For centuries the Jewish Sabbath had been associated with the Law; six days of work then you rest. But the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week is associated with grace. First there is faith in the living Christ.”
So this resurrection on the Sabbath, which has now been changed to Sunday, is supposed to bring up in our minds what God did and how He ceased from His labors; He ceased from His work. And we need to see the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ in that light because as you become a Christian you cease from your work, or you cease from your labor. Now why would we say that? Because of a very simple statement that Jesus made in John 19:30, this is the final words coming from the mouth of Christ just before He dies: “Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is” what? “finished! And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” That’s a euphemism for death.
Why is the transaction of Christ, why should it bring into our minds the Sabbath? Because in the Sabbath works cease; in Christ works cease. Why do works cease? Works cease because He has finished it all. Sadly, many, many people do not think this way. They look at Jesus as if He’s done most of the work but we need to chip in a few good works ourselves. Religion says Christ did 90% but who makes up the difference? I do. How do I do that? Well, I pay, I pray, I obey would be one example; I try hard, I work hard, I try to be a good person. And so many people are caught in that mantra and may I just say to you, if that describes you then you are not a Christian. You have never entered into the grace of God whereby you cease from your work. God says Jesus did 100%; that is salvation by grace. Grace, of course, is unmerited favor. And the only way to receive something that has already been done for us is to receive it as a gift.
The only way to receive something by grace is to receive it as a gift and the only way to receive it as a gift, according to Romans 4:4-5 is by faith. [Romans 4:4-5, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.  But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”] So the Christian message is not Jesus bought lunch, now let me leave the tip. The Christian message is it’s all been paid for, everything: past, present and future! In fact, that is what that phase translated “It is finished” means; it’s the Greek word tetelestai; tetelestai is one of the most beautiful words in the Greek language, it means paid in full. That’s what’s translated there, “It is finished.” In fact, it’s very interesting that tetelestai itself, in John 19:30, is in the perfect tense. The perfect tense represents, in the Greek language (see, grammar means things because God chose to express Himself in verbal form) it means in the perfect tense a one-time action in the past with ongoing benefits. What is the death of Jesus Christ? It is a one-time action in the past that already took place with ongoing benefits for whoever will receive it by way of faith.
So what is the gospel? The gospel is Christ alone, faith alone, grace alone as revealed by the Scripture alone to the glory of God alone. And anybody that would add anything to that is teaching what Galatians 1 would call a false gospel. Now you may ask, well then where do good works come from? Aren’t we a peculiar people? Aren’t we called to produce good works? And the answer to that is we produce good works as God’s people as a response to what He’s done. We see “tetelestai” and we see “sabbath” and we see “paid in full” and we just can’t believe we’ve received this package from God. And we are so blown away by it that we want to express gratitude towards Him; we want to worship Him.
Now we do not do good works to somehow make up the deficit for what Christ did but we do good works, not to pay God back, we do good works not to earn our salvation. We do good works out of a response of gratitude and worship for what God has done for us. And that is the proper motivation for good works. And yet so many people don’t think that way. They think, and I know this for a fact because I thought this way for many, many years, until I finally understood the gospel, by God’s grace, at the age of 16. Prior to the age of 16 I was up in that top category there, Jesus did most of it but I need to pick up the difference. That’s not the gospel.
In fact, the book of Isaiah, chapter 64 and verse 6 specifically calls works that we do to somehow add to what Christ has done, it calls them “filthy rags.” [Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags….” KJV] God is not interested in them; God will not receive them. Why? Because Christ did it all. But upon hearing the gospel I shifted my whole thought process, away from me contributing a little sliver here to simply desiring to do good works because of this gift that I have received from God.
And I know to some of you this sounds elementary, it sounds basic, why don’t you move on to something more in depth. But beloved, this is the number 1 reason in the world that separates a saved person from an unsaved person. It separates a Christian from a non-Christian, because every other ism out there has man performing to do such and such, to somehow earn his acceptance before God. That mindset that people have is related to pride. People like to earn things from God because if I earn something from God guess who can boast? I can; yeah, Jesus, I’m glad You did a lot of it but look at me… look at ME, look at MY contribution.
But you see, God has designed salvation in such a way, according to Romans 3:27, Ephesians 2:8-9, so that no man can boast. To receive the grace of God means an abasement of pride and pride is abased, pride is always attacked. This is why Paul, in Galatians 5:11 calls the gospel an offense. [Romans 3:27, “Where is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.  For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law.” Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Galatians 5:11, “But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.”]
Pride is always abased, pride is always attacked in a grace system because it does not allow man to contribute to his salvation; it does not allow him to pull himself up by his own bootstraps. But aren’t we the self-made culture, the American says. Don’t we venerate and assign and ascribe accolades to people who make something of themselves, who somehow pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. And this is the culture that we’re living in; it is a works oriented culture and the gospel comes along and says you know what? All of your good works to God are as filthy rags; they mean absolutely nothing because Jesus did it all and that is an assault on man’s pride. And many people would rather persist in works to accommodate pride than they would simply to receive something from God as a free gift.
So of course, the question I have for you is which category are you in? Are you in the top category there or the bottom? In this case the bottom category is the right category. And it is so easy to become sloppy in our thinking on this and yet we cannot get this point wrong because this is the gospel and that is the significance of “sabbath” and so forth.
We continue on here in verse 19, it says, “So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week,” now notice what this says, “when the doors were shut … for fear of the Jews.” “when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews,” so these disciples that are in this particular room, I would guess it would be the Upper Room, are in a state of fear. And as I mentioned before, there’s ten of them. Judas took an early exit, John 13:29-30, and if you drop down to verse 26 you’ll discover that Thomas doesn’t show up until about eight day s later. [John 13:29-30, “For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, ‘buy the things we have need of for the feast’; or else, that he should give something to the poor.  So after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night.” John 20:26, “After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them.”]
So these people are intimidated; these people are scared. Why are they scared? Why are they insecure? They are insecure because their teacher had been killed by the unbelieving Jews. Their Rabbi had been killed. And (this is before Christ had bodily appeared to them) it they can kill our teacher, if they can kill our Rabbi then they can kill us too, so let’s kind of barricade ourselves in this room, let’s lock the doors so no one can get in and out, and let’s just hide in a state of fear.
Now you contrast that with what these ten, and then Thomas included, these eleven became. When you get into Acts 2 and beyond you see a totally different transformed group. How do people move from fear of their own lives into a scenario where they’re willing to preach Christ with great boldness at peril to their own lives? The only answer to that is (1) they saw the resurrected Christ, which they are about to see in a moment, but number 2, they are going to get an endowment or an empowerment from on high called the Holy Spirit. In fact, down in verse 23 there’s a reference to the coming Holy Spirit, a verse we probably won’t get to today. But Luke 24:49 says this: Jesus says this, “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Something is about to happen where they are about to receive an empowerment that they didn’t have before; they are about to be clothed… now “clothed” would refer to all of us, right? And it’s a power not within themselves but it is a power from on high. And this, of course is, as we will see in Acts 2 when we get down to verse 23, probably next week, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit in the lives of these ten, and then eleven, made all the difference in the world.
The fact of the matter is God…, and we all have different callings in God, but God never calls us to do anything that He does not empower us to do first. And so many times we step out in what we think is some sort of calling of God in our life and we try to manipulate circumstances and we try to pull off that calling through human power. But the fact of the matter is, we’re never called to live the Christian life through human power; we are called to live the Christian life through divine power. Someone has said well, the Christian life is difficult and I will disagree with that; the Christian life is not difficult, the Christian life is impossible!
We simply cannot live out the Christian life through human power. God never designed it that way; we live out the Christian life through a chronic and constant and perpetual dependence upon the Holy Spirit. If you are trying to live out the requirements of God on your life through human power you are going to be one very frustrated, anxiety ridden, burnt out individual. And yet if we do what the Apostle Paul tells us to do in Galatians 5:16, where he says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh,” suddenly we are going to discover that we have an ability to live out the Christian life. So you are seeing here a dramatic transformation that is happening in the lives of these individuals.
Now one of the things that’s very interesting to note is Thomas doesn’t show up until about eight days later. It says in verse 26, “After eight days His disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.” So the scenario we’re reading about is eight days earlier. Why is that significant? Because it’s on this day that we’re reading about, in verse 19-23, that Jesus is going to appear to these ten. Thomas, because he was not meeting regularly with the brethren was cheated of that blessing. Thomas, simply because he was not present spent a week there in fear and in doubt and in anxiety.
In other words, if Thomas had been where he was supposed to be he would have been illuminated and he would have been enlightened as were these other ten. So simply because of a lack of presence he was forfeited or short-changed, if you could, on a spiritual blessing. He spent all of this time in fear and doubt when the whole matter could have been cleared up eight days earlier had he just been present.
And you see, that is a very important principle to understand; the principle of do not forsake for yourselves, amongst yourselves, your gathering together. Hebrews 10:25 puts it this way: “not forsaking your own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
Thomas Constable, in his Online Notes writes this: “How much Thomas missed because he did not meet with the other disciples on the Lord’s Day. He had to endure a whole week of fear and unbelief unnecessarily.”
The fact of the matter is when the Holy Spirit puts it in your mind to attend church you will be immediately under attack not to do so. Doubts will come into your mind, I think I’ll just skip this Sunday, I can always watch it online, I’m too busy, something has come up in the family, you know, we’ve got some kind of vacation plans or we’ve got something for the kids, I need a week off. And those kinds of things come into our mind. Now why do those things come into our mind? They come into our mind because Satan knows the spiritual encouragement… did not Hebrews 10:25 talk about encouragement, “But encouraging one another” as you see the day approaching. Satan knows the encouragement that you’re going to get by simply being present. And so he is trying to rob you of that blessing. So he is trying to keep you away from a regularly assembling of yourselves together.
The fact of the matter is when we skip church, we miss church, we don’t think church is much of a priority we think we’re cheating God but the reality of the situation is we’re cheating ourselves. And God has designed the church in such a way that it’s the place where we come and we receive nourishment, we receive fellowship, we receive the Lord’s table and many other things we do at church; sometimes we receive prayer, which we desperately need to make it through an entire week on Satan’s turf.
And yet when church is not a priority what begins to take place? We become lethargic, we become fatigued, and consequently we cannot live for God in this fallen world. You think of all of the things Thomas could have been up to speed on a week ahead of time, but he lost out because he was not present with the others. That’s why there’s ten in this room and not eleven.
Why do people treat church completely different than they would treat any other part of their lives? I would never show up at the job that I’m paid for and I would never say to my boss, well, I’ll show up if it’s convenient, I’ll show up when I feel like it, I’ll show up when I’m in a good mood. And we would never pay our taxes way. April 15th just came and went; well, gee, United States government, this year I just didn’t feel like paying my taxes but I’ll make up for it next year. And we have this mentality that we exhibit through diligence in all other areas of life but somehow when it comes to the house of God we can become very casual about it; we can become very cavalier about it, we can even begin to look like church is just kind of a casual option that maybe I’ll enter into this week, maybe I won’t, depending on if something better comes up or something more expedient comes up or not.
I’m not even saying which church to go to. Sugar Land Bible Church we think is a pretty good church but there are churches all over this Houston area. Whatever church you’re going to go to, make it a priority. Now you might say to yourself, I don’t like church; I don’t like that church over there. Well, why don’t you like it? Well, there’s a bunch of hypocrites in that church. And my response is well, we’ve always got room for one more hypocrite, come on and join the crowd.
And it is interesting to me that Sunday morning is always the time period when families run into the greatest distress. That’s when the arguments start, that’s when the car won’t start, that’s when oh, did you remember to put gas in the car…no, I forgot. The pancakes got burned. I mean, why is it that we have all of these problems when we’re ready to get out the door on Sunday morning to come to church? Because it’s the devil doing it; the devil totally understands what church is in the plan of God. He knows the encouragement that you’re going to receive and the feeding you’re going to receive once you’re here and so he’s trying to defeat you that week. And the best way to defeat you is to deprive you of the basic nourishment that you need.
You know, it’s interesting, when you put out fires, you’re at a campfire and you want the fire to go out quickly because you’re leaving and the weekend is over, other than throw water on the fire how do you put out those coals that are still burning? You just separate them, if the coals are separated, guess what? Individually they go out faster than they would as a group and as a unit. And you see, that’s what it is like in the spiritual life. If we are involved in what’s called “Lone Ranger” Christianity with no real connection and diligence to the people of God or to the house of God, then we, in that Lone Ranger capacity will go out spiritually faster than when we’re regularly gathering together. And so it’s a fascinating thing here that is happening to this man, Thomas.
We move away from the fearful disciples and now we get a glimpse of the faithful Savior. Jesus does not leave these individuals gathered here, these ten, He does not leave them in the dark or in fear very long. It says, “So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut,” that’s an interesting idea there, “where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews,” watch this, “Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”
Jesus “stood in their midst” despite the fact that the doors were shut. In fact, the NIV uses the translation “locked.” The doors were shut, the doors are locked and Jesus, in His resurrected body, “stood in their midst.” In this resurrected body that Jesus was in He passed through grave clothes, a rocky tomb, and keep in mind that the giant stone that was placed in front of the tomb was just that, a giant stone to prevent any attempt that the disciples might manufacture to fake the resurrection. Yet Jesus, in His resurrected body, passed right through that stone and that rock and here is Jesus once again, that evening, in His body, passing through these doors. It would seem that Jesus, in His resurrected body, was not bound by the normal laws of nature.
Dr. Constable writes this: “His resurrection body also possessed properties of immortality that enabled him to pass through solid objects and to materialize and dematerialize at will, though it was not ethereal or ghostly.” Jesus exhibited things in His resurrected body that He didn’t exhibit before. Why is this significant? Why is it interesting to us? It’s interesting to me because Jesus’ resurrection is “the first fruits.” 1 Corinthians 15:20 says this, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:23 says, “But each in his own order:” speaking of our resurrection, “Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming.”
In Jewish harvest cycle the cycle or the harvest did not come in all at once. It came in in waves. In the Old Testament there are essentially three harvests for the nation of Israel. The first is the first fruits; the initial crop comes in and everybody rejoices because if the first fruits came in the general harvest will come in. And then later comes the general harvest. And then after that, around Leviticus 19:9-10 God specifically told the Jews not to harvest everything, but to leave some for the poor. [Leviticus 19:9-10, “Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest.  Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God.”]
And this is where we read in the story of Ruth, she was there in that third harvest at what’s called the “gleanings.” It’s interesting that the Lord provided dignity for the poor; He looked out for the poor but He didn’t just hand them things, He allowed them to work for it just like everybody else. That’s an elevation of the poor; that is ascribing to the poor basic worth and dignity. But what triggered those three harvests was Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead; because the first fruits came in the rest of the harvest was guaranteed.
Paul call’s Christ’s resurrection first fruits because His resurrection is a virtual guarantee of my resurrection, and your resurrection, and everybody else’s resurrection in the course of time. And when we receive those resurrected bodies, which we desperately need, if you don’t believe me just look in the mirror, you’ll see why, when we receive those resurrected bodies which we desperately need, they will be like His resurrected body.
1 John 3:2 says, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him….” Philippians 3:21 says this, “who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory….” If you want to get a caricature, or a picture, if you will, of what we will actually be like in our resurrected bodies you study Jesus Christ’s body in His resurrection because His resurrected body is called “first fruits.” So it would seem to me that the body we will be in will still be us, I’ll be able to recognize you, you’ll be able to recognize me, but I’ll look a lot better and you’ll look a lot better because it’s the body as God intended it, without the curse of sin wearing it down.
And apparently that body, just like Christ’s body, will not be bound by the normal laws of nature that we experience today. His resurrection body also possessed properties of immortality that enabled Him to pass through solid objects and to materialize and dematerialize at will, though it was not ghostly.
The current body that we’re in is perishable; the heavenly body will be imperishable. And I’m getting all of this right out of 1 Corinthians 15:42-44. In fact, Bob Draper is teaching a class, I believe, just on this subject. As a matter of fact, do you want to come up here and finish this? You might do a better job. [1 Corinthians 15:42-44, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body;  it is won in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;  it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”]
The earthly body is perishable; the heavenly body is imperishable. The earthly body is lowly, the heavenly body is honorable. The earthly body is weak. I remember one year after graduating from college we had kind of a reunion with the basketball team, and so the coach is getting us all back together, put on the same jerseys and let’s go out and play. And I remembered what I was like a year earlier, how I could run swiftly, how I could dunk the basketball and I’d been away from athletics for about a year and I thought in my mind I’d just be able to come right back on the court and do the exact same thing. The first thing I noticed was that the jersey was a little tighter than what I remembered, a few pounds got stacked on there in just one year. And I remember going out there and running around and my mind wanted to do X, Y and Z, but my body was tired and winded and fatigued and limited. And that’s just one year away from the game of basketball, when I was in my early 20’s. Think what’s happened in the interim. I’ve been away for decades. I couldn’t even begin to do the things I used to do on the basketball court.
Why is that? Because the body that we’re in is weak but the next body will be powerful. This body is natural; the heavenly body will be spiritual. In other words, it won’t be limited by the basic physical laws and properties that we are limited to today. The current body is its condition because it’s a physical, earthly body proceeding from Adam. But the spiritual body, the future body will be spiritual and heavenly because it does not proceed from the first Adam but it proceeds from the last Adam. And I believe that all of the promises that God gives us, think of all our inheritance in God, to me this is one of the most glorious promises because as we watch people age, as we watch ourselves age, and die, and wear down, just like an automobile, once it gets a certain number of miles on it it breaks down, it has to be taken in to the mechanic. You put a certain number of miles on this body and breakdowns start to happen, it needs more attention.
And as we go through this very difficult process of aging, living in a fallen world, out the Scripture comes and holds out to us this future that we have in God. And there are so many people that live their lives and they go through the aging process and the process of sometimes sickness and cancer and disease, and think of all of the things that can go wrong with the physical body. They go through those experiences without the light of the Word of God. And if you do not have the light of the Word of God you have no hope in the midst of those circumstances, do you? And it’s difficult to endure trials when you have no hope but the Scripture, through this tremendous revelation of the future, in terms of our resurrected body, holds out hope to us in the midst of a fallen world.
I like the title of the book that Hal Lindsey wrote a few years back; the title of it is There’s a New World Coming. And thank God for that. As we look at Nepal and what happened there, and as we look at our Supreme Court that doesn’t even understand that marriage is between a man and a woman anymore, and we look at the state of our nation and the things that are going wrong, how fortifying it is, how rewarding it is to understand that there’s a better world coming, the world as God intended it, the world as God designed it.
And so we have the appearance now of Jesus Christ. And then also in verse 19 and into verse 20 we don’t just have his appearance but we have His words of comfort. Notice, if you will, the last part of verse 19, and He “said to them,” this is His first words to the ten in His resurrected body, He “said to them, ‘Peace be with you;’” now Jesus is a Jew; do we all know Jesus was not a Southern Baptist? Or a Presbyterian? Or an Episcopalian? Or a Metho-Catho-Bapti-terian? Or a Bapti-costal-fundamatic or whatever, He was Jewish.
I mean, He was a Jew from the top of His head to the sole of His feet; He went through all of the preparations that young Jewish people went through up until the age of 12. So He is a Jew and these ten in the Upper Room are also Jews and He is speaking to them the way one Jew would speak to another. He says, “Peace be with you.”
Now in Hebrew that’s the word Shalom, which means peace. And many people say well, that’s all He meant; He just wanted to give them a nice greeting. But there is so much more to this expression, “Peace be with you” than wanting to give them a nice greeting. How do I know that? Because as you go down to verse 21 He says it again, “Peace be with you.” And if that weren’t enough as you go down to verse 26 He says it a third time, “Peace be with you.”
When you’re just giving someone a nice greeting you don’t say shalom three times, you just say peace. But here He says it three times, and I believe that what He’s doing here is He’s revealing the content of His ministry. Christ’s whole ministry and why he came into this world revolves around this subject of peace. If we do not understand the subject of peace, eirenes, is the way it reads in the Greek, from eirenes we get the word irenic, as in peaceful, the opposite of being polemical, polemos means war, if someone is polemical they are war-like. Jesus was irenic, peace-like.
But if we don’t understand this we miss the whole point of why He came. Peace obviously is a very important subject to Him because back in the Upper Room, in John 14:27 Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you,” watch this, “not as the world gives do I give to you.” So He is offering peace that is inaccessible in any other source. “Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” I think I just read that verse.
I meant to read this one, John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have” what? “peace.” In the world you have tribulation, [but take courage; I have overcome the world.]” Ever gone into a Christian bookstore and read one of those books about God’s promises, promises from God, they’re usually happy promises. I never read this promise though in one of those books. “In the world you will have tribulation,” amen? It’s a promise from God. “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace.” Why do we need peace? Because “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; for I have overcome the world.”
What characterizes the ministry of Jesus Christ is peace. Now there are two kinds of peace. Most people take this word “peace,” eirenes and conflate it in their minds into one definition, but there are at least two definitions of the word “peace.” The first is positional peace; positional peace is a right standing before God, Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, in the past, because of what Christ has done and because we have received it as a free gift it says we have, past tense, “been justified.” We don’t justify ourselves before God, our justification has already happened. And because we have “been justified” or right standing before God “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
What is justification anyway? Justification is a verbal announcement from heaven that we’re innocent; in fact, we’re not just innocent we’re perfect in Christ’s righteousness. It’s very similar to a jury verdict being read. When an acquittal or condemnation comes in from a jury the jury has made up its mind and made its decision, someone will read the verdict and as that verdict is being read there is, if the person is not guilty, there is a verbal declaration of their innocence. In essence what happened to you in the past, the moment you placed your trust in Jesus Christ is a heavenly jury verdict was read that you are righteous before God.
Now watch this very carefully; justification does not make you righteous. Justification is the announcement of righteousness. What made you righteous? A totally different word in the New Testament called imputation. Imputation means transfer; the moment you trusted in Jesus Christ, in essence what happened is the righteousness of Jesus Christ was transferred to you. You are not just “not guilty;” you are clothed in the very righteousness of His Son. It is the best deal in the universe.
And when justification happens that is the announcement of righteousness. So these are things, imputation and justification which are always portrayed for the New Testament Christian in the past tense, because of a result of imputation and justification Romans 5:1 says, I “have peace with God.” Now why do I need peace with God? Very simply, if you do not have those things you are God’s enemy. You say does the Bible say that? Yes it does, Romans 5:10, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son….” Prior to imputation and justification the state of the natural man, without these divine resources, is at odds with God. We are at enmity with God.
And I very much like the title of Jonathan Edwards famous sermon that started the great awakening in the United States of America. In fact, there was such a profound movement of the Holy Spirit on this sermon that it scared Jonathan Edwards to death and he put that at the bottom of his file drawer and said I’m never preaching that one again. Do you know the title of that sermon? It is called Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Jonathan Edwards, who became eventually the President of Princeton, is regarded as one of evangelicalism’s greatest intellects. Read through that sermon sometime. That is the sermon that the Spirit of God used to start the first great awakening in the United States of America. It is a description of what it’s like as people are “sinners in the hands of an angry God.” It is a description of people that are on a collision course with the judgment of God. Now I don’t like the teaching any more than you do but that is just plain Bible. This is what the Scripture says, without imputation and justification I am at enmity with God; in fact, I am a “Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God.” In fact, if you really want to be technical about it, John 3 says I’m already condemned, it’s just judgment hasn’t fallen yet. But without these resources in the first Adam, which is what I’m naturally born into, I am in this position already condemned.
John 3:36 says this, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides,” that would be present tense, or remains “on him.” The wrath of God to the unbeliever is much like the sword of Damocles; it hangs over their head and can fall at any moment. This was the things that Jonathan Edwards was teaching back at the beginning of colonial America, even prior to that. This is what the first great awakening was all about. You can find that sermon for free on the internet and you can read it.
And this is why the peace of God, this is why Jesus comes in and says “Peace be with you,” that’s why that’s such a significant word. It is the ministry of Christ that came to give us this peace or this right standing before God, something that apparently we desperately need.
And then the word “peace” can go a little bit deeper than that. There is something called experiential peace. This is peace that I can experience through the resources of the Holy Spirit as I walk through the valleys and the difficulties of life. I am reminded very much of Mark 4:36-38, it’s the story of Jesus on the Sea of Galilee with His disciples. It says this, “Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him.  And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much so that the boat was filling up” with water. Apparently it looked like it was about to sink. Does that describe your life? That can describe all of our lives at times, can’t it? A fierce gale, waves, perhaps not literal but certainly metaphorical. And what was Jesus doing in the midst of this. Do you remember the story? Verse 38, “Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion;” got to throw the cushion in there so at least he was comfortable, but the fact of the matter is this storm is breaking out and here’s the Messiah, their Savior, sound asleep, “and they woke Him up and said to Him, ‘Teacher,” don’t you care? Isn’t that what we say to God all the time when the storms of life break out, “do You not care” about me, don’t You care “that we are perishing?”
Of course He cared, but He has something, at this point, that they don’t have. He has experiential peace. Now let me ask you a question. Where does Jesus live right now? Inside of us, doesn’t He. Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives” where, “in me.” So the storms and the gale and the winds break forth in our lives, Jesus is living inside of us, the exact same Jesus that was asleep in the midst of a storm and as we draw upon His resources what do we have an ability to do? We have an ability to experience calmness and tranquility in the midst of adversity. That, beloved, is what the world is looking for.
The problem is they’re looking for it in all the wrong places. They’re looking for it in financial security, as if there is such a thing anymore. They’re looking for it in relationships; they are looking for it in substances, if I can’t get it in my mind then I’ll artificially put it into my brain through chemicals, alcohol, drugs, and this is what the world is seeking. And yet they are seeking for it in the wrong place because it’s only available in Jesus Christ. It’s only available in Christ who said threefold, “Peace be with you.”
Paul talked about it, didn’t he? Philippians 4:6-7. By the way, did you all know Paul didn’t write the book of Philippians from the penthouse suite of the Hilton? Philippians 4:6-7, a prison epistle; why do we call it a prison epistle? Because he was in prison. What does he write in Philippians 4:6-7? “Be anxious for…” 95% of things, not 95% of things but you can worry about your mortgage, NO! “Be anxious for nothing,” in other words, that’s an imperative in Greek, that’s a command. So when I am anxious guess what, I’m rebelling against the command of God which makes me in sin. Did you know anxiety is a sin? Worry is a sin. Why is that? Because “without faith it is” what? “impossible to please God.” When I’m in worry I’m not walking in faith.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving,” Pastor, I don’t know what to pray about, and I get together with God in my quiet time and I don’t know how to pray. Here’s how you pray, present your “supplication” to Him. Supplication, from that word supplication we get the word supply; ask Him whatever is troubling you to supply in His way and His timing. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanks¬giving let your requests be made known to God.” Do you know why God’s people are eaten away by anxiety? Because they are not taking the time to present the circumstances of their life to God.
Now what’s the result of presenting our supplications to God? Verse 7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension,” meaning you can’t figure out the peace of God. The world says you can have peace if your circumstances are right. Jesus says you can have peace when your circumstances are unfavorable. That is a totally different way of thinking than what the world is grasping after. That’s why the disciples are saying to Jesus, save us, don’t you care? They are looking at circumstances and as a result they’re in turmoil. Jesus and Paul, by extension, are speaking of a peace that defies circumstances; that’s why it “surpasses all comprehension.” It “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Beasley-Murray in his commentary on John says this, “Not surprisingly it,” or peace, “is included along with grace in the greeting of every epistle of Paul in the New Testament. Whenever Paul mentions peace in a greeting that word, ‘peace’ is always accompanied with the word grace.” In other words, you can’t have the peace that we’re talking about, both positionally and experientially without God’s grace. What is grace? Grace is the opposite of justice. Justice is getting what you deserve. Ever see people pray God, I want justice. I usually move away because the lightning bolt is about to hit. Justice is getting what you deserve; mercy is not getting what you deserve. Grace is even beyond mercy; it’s receiving unmerited favor from God. It’s a concept that’s even further and richer than ever mercy itself. Not only are we not going to hell because of what Jesus did, we have received mercy; as if that weren’t enough, we have received grace. We have received eternal riches. That’s not just mercy, that is grace.
So when Paul talks about peace it’s always accompanied with grace. In other words, you cannot experience this peace, either positionally or experientially without receiving Jesus Christ and His grace, or unmerited favor that he offers to humanity. Jesus, therefore, in verse 19 is not wishing peace on these individuals. It’s not just shalom, it’s not just “I hope things are going well,” it’s not well-wishing. Three-fold repetition of “peace be with you” is imparting, He is imparting it to them because it’s not available in any other source and if we miss out on what the subject of peace is we’ve failed to understand the ministry of Jesus Christ.
We made it through a verse today but this is a very easy Segway into the gospel, isn’t it. I don’t even know how I could botch this one up, and I’ve botched up a lot of things in my life. But not this one because grace is unmerited favor. It’s possible that people can be here today that have never received the unmerited favor of God; they’ve never received what Jesus has done for them as a free gift. And according to the Scripture there is only one way to receive a free gift, and that’s by faith. You can, and we just celebrated my daughter’s birthday, her birthday was earlier in the month but we actually celebrated it, finally, yesterday, with all of her friends at a place I’ve never heard of before and I got educated, called Sweet & Sassy. I’m not a regular hanger-out-there, but I learned about it. So all of these presents are there for her to open and sadly we ran out of time and everybody went home and these presents remained unopened. The present is for her to receive, the present is there for her to take, but it has no value to her personally until she receives it.
God has done everything He can do to restore humanity back to God but all it is is a present wrapped up in a package; that’s all it is, it has no value to any human being or person until they actually receive it, take it, open it. The Bible says there’s only one response that we can have to receive this present, which is faith. Faith means to trust; it means to rely upon, it means to depend upon, it means to have confidence in. At some point we stop trusting in other things that we were banking our eternity on and we shift our trust exclusively into the promise of Jesus Christ. We trust Him and Him alone for our eternity and the safekeeping of our souls.
That’s something you can do right now as I’m speaking; it’s a private moment between you and God. It requires no action on your part, you do not have to raise your hand, you do not have to walk an aisle, you don’t have to join a church, you don’t have to give money, you simply respond by faith to what Jesus has done for you. And if it’s something that you’ve already done or something that you are now doing then on the authority of the Word of God your whole eternal destiny before God is changed. If it’s something that you need more explanation I’m available after the service to talk. Shall we pray.
Father, we’re grateful for this revelation of Your post resurrection appearance and these wonderful statements that You made here, “peace be with you.” We ask, Father, that we would take these things to heart; we would walk with You this week and we would live the types of lives that you would have us to live as we bask in the great riches that You have given us. We will be careful to give you all the praise and glory. And God’s people said….